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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 02:00 GMT 03:00 UK
Chavez defiant in face of protests
Chavez addresses rally
Chavez fought back with a speech
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has warned against fresh attempts to topple his government as police arrested a retired colonel who led a march against him through the capital, Caracas.

Interior Minister Diosdado Cabello said Hidalgo Valero was held on charges of unauthorised use of his army uniform, which he wore at a news conference on Wednesday where he called for the anti-Chavez protest.

Thousands of people took to the streets to demand the president's resignation.

Protesters hold up an army shirt during the protest
The retired officers held up their uniforms on hangers in protest
Scores of officers were forced into retirement, and senior officers replaced by lower-ranking officers, as Chavez opponents were purged from the ranks following an attempted military coup in April.

The retired officers marched with their uniforms on hangers, showing their solidarity with the officers accused of involvement in the coup and demanding an end to what they call the use of the military for political aims.

While Chavez opponents chanted "out, you communist" - referring to the president - and called for civil disobedience, supporters cried "out with the coup supporters!" and "no fascism!"

The populist president addressed thousands of supporters in a shanty town, urging them to defend his self-proclaimed "revolution" in face of the protesters.

Military discontent

Since anti-government demonstrations in April left 17 people dead - and led to Mr Chavez being ousted for 48 hours by rebel officers - Venezuela has lived in a state of heightened tension.


I warn the enemies of the country, I warn the counter-revolutionaries who believe they can get rid of Chavez

President Chavez

With rumours of another possible coup circulating daily in Caracas, analysts say Thursday's march on the presidential palace could be another potential spark for violence.

There had been fears pro-Chavez supporters - grouped in the controversial Bolivarian Circles - may attack the protesters during the march.

The groups are a point of contention between the president and many in the military.

The government says the circles are not armed, but the opposition says they are militia groups and that they instigated the violence in April.

An investigation into the deaths has yet to be made public, and opponents say it cannot be impartial, because it has been led by an attorney-general loyal to Mr Chavez.

Military analysts say discontent within an already divided armed forces has been worsened by the government's purge of officers involved in the coup.

With the next round of military promotions due on 5 July, Hidalgo Valero said merit, not politics, should determine promotions.


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